Five NFL Coaches On The Hot Seat
Posted on 12/6/2011 12:31:24 AM
Never was there a more tragic figure than the NFL coach. Not the rock stars like they are in the NCAA, making less than half of what their star players do, and taking the heat for any mistake within the franchise. Like being a father to 50+ children from different mothers, the coach has to show patience, intelligence, class, and passion at every turn, whether you lose your MVP quarterback before the season, or win ten in a row. Then, when the season's over and the coach can finally relax, you're called in to account for your season, for every loss, for every bonehead penalty, and if you can't assuage your owner's fears, you're gone.
The Jaguars kicked off the blame train early this year, telling Jack Del Rio to hit the road after eight years. Though not a surprise, it was a little shocking to see the firing come in November rather than at the end of the season, prompting many to wonder who else may be on the trash heap of discarded coaches come season's end. While the coaching carousel almost ensures a job for many of them in 2012 (whether in the NFL or on ESPN), the ignominy of being fired has to sting a little, even if you deserved it months (or years) ago. Time to look at the five worst NFL coaches , those that should be looking for work next year.
5.Tom Coughlin (New York, 8th season, 71-52) - An annual nominee for the chopping block, Coughlin's hard-nosed approach to coaching was initially what drew New York to hire him. Taking on a 4-12 team, Coughlin was responsible for the evolution of Eli Manning, taking criticism the season he benched Kurt Warner in favor of the rookie QB. With that one brilliant decision, Coughlin took a 6-10 2004 season, turned it into an 11-5 in 2005, and nabbed first in the NFC East. Two years later, the Giants took down the undefeated Patriots to win the Super Bowl and Coughlin's old school, grumpy gramps approach to coaching looked like it was paying off. The following year he took first in the NFC East again, but lost in the divisional playoffs to the Eagles, and has since watched the Giants become an average team again. 8-8 in 2009, 10-6 in 2010, he was still awarded an extension through the end of 2012, though he hadn't made the playoffs in either of those years.
Tom gets brought up often for these lists, whether early on in his career when he caught flak from Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey in the media during the 2006 season, or as recently as this season, as they've watched a 1st place, playoff-caliber team fall to 6-5 by Week 12. Though 4th in passing yards under Manning, the Giants are a horrid 32nd in rushing yards, resulting in a number of games that are either losses, or closer than they need to be (5 games decided by 4 points or less). Last week's giant oops to the Saints (losing 49-24) showed how low the Giants' defense has fallen (27th in points allowed, 28th in yards allowed) and though they put up one monster of a fight against Green Bay, they’ve still lost four in a row and are riding 2nd in the East. If Dallas manages to get in the playoffs ahead and New York is sitting home to end the year, Coughlin may be able to forget about that last year on his contract (or conversely, Jason Garrett could be looking for work).
4. Andy Reid (Philadelphia, 13th season, 122-81) - Coach Reid is a beast to look at and his time in Philadelphia has been largely successful since he started in 1999. With only two losing seasons as the Eagles' coach, Reid has gone to the playoffs nine times, played in five NFC Championship games, been to a Super Bowl, and holds most major coaching records in Philly (wins, playoff wins (10), winning percentage (.609)). Of the current crop of coaches, only Belichick in New England has similar stats over the same time frame, though Reid has been at it longer (he is the longest active coach tenured in the NFL). Reid wields almost full decision-making powers in the Eagles' franchise when it comes to players and has won the NFC East a total of six times over his time.
However, things haven't been all wine and roses these past few years. Maybe it started when the T.O. show hit Philadelphia, or maybe when McNabb was benched mid-game in 2008, or when Vick and Young came to the Eagles, but Reid's fiery passion and Philadelphia's love of their coach seems to be on the fade. The Eagles no longer seem the force they once were and, to be fair, even with their most talented squads, they still couldn't win it all. Coming into the season under the moniker "Dream Team" (ask the Heat how that works out for you), expectations were soaring, which underlined the failure all the more. The Eagles are currently 3rd in the NFC East (tied with the Redskins), have a porous defense full of "superstars" (ranked 21st in points allowed, 15th in yards allowed), and can't seem to find an offensive identity or a solid QB to lead it. Players are becoming lazy (see DeSean Jackson in last week's loss to Seattle) and Reid doesn't seem to be the iron fist and cunning leader he once was for this squad. Assured his third losing season, Reid may not be as scrutinized or worried as the other coaches on this list, but it may signal a time for Philadelphia to try something new (though losing Reid to another team could come back to bite them in the pads should he go to, say, Washington).
3. Mike Shanahan (Washington, 2nd season, 10-17) - Successful as he was in Denver, Shanahan, just hasn't quite operated at the same level since his Elway and Davis-led Super Bowls. Even before coming to Washington, Coach Shanahan only won the AFC West one time after Elway retired, and went to just one AFC Championship (over a 10-season span). His overall win-loss record in Denver was an impressive 138-86 and his coaching records included most wins in a three year period (26 between 1996-1998), as well as being undefeated at home over those years. He was one of only a handful of coaches to win 100 games in his first 10 seasons, to win back-to-back Super Bowls, and still has Denver records in winning percentage (.646) and wins. However, most of those records can be attributed to the right place at the right time, inheriting a team stacked with talent on both sides of the ball.
Since signing his payday with the Redskins a year ago, the genius and intensity people saw in Denver just hasn't been there. Washington hasn't been able to do much of anything the last decade and that didn't change with the arrival of Mike. Hired for five years at a hefty $35 million, the Redskins allowed their new coach to have GM level power in team decision making (much the same as Reid in Philadelphia), but he really hasn't made a good one yet. In two seasons he has brought in Donovan McNabb to play quarterback, released McNabb, touted Rex Grossman, sat him in favor of rookie John Beck, then changed his mind back to Grossman. None of the defensive power or offensive dominance seen in Denver has surfaced in Washington, which makes it hard to justify the money being doled out to him. Though he may not be out yet, losing too many more games this season may make it hard not to look for options before next season. The Redskins love to waste money, sure, but Shanahan doesn't look like the answer to any of the woes in our Nation's Capital, or anyone’s for that matter (though you give him a team with a great QB, running back, and defense, and he’ll win a bunch for you).
2.Tony Sparano (Miami, 4th season- 28-31) - When he was hired in 2008 (following their horrid 1-15 season), Coach Sparano met with immediate success, taking Miami to first in the AFC East and the playoffs (though they lost in the first round). It was Sparano's first head coaching job, tied the record for biggest NFL turnaround (10 more wins than the season prior), and seemed to portend great things for the young coach (well, okay he's 50). Then, the team started to fall apart and Coach Sparano and all his assistants couldn't put the Dolphins back together again. Two years after almost winning AP Coach of the Year, Tony was coming off his second straight 7-9 season and had already lost the support of the Miami front office. The evidence? Last season, GM Jeff Ireland was publicly interviewing head coaches.
While Sparano was there to start this season, we've all known since training camp that this would be his last year. Though he did make his 2011 a little more respectable rattling off three straight, solid wins mid-season after starting 0-7, Miami is still a terrible team, ranking 24th in points and never really looking like they were heading in the right direction under Sparano. Brandon Marshall has been more visible in the headlines than on the field, there's never been a stable hand at QB, and Sparano hasn't been the presence on the sideline Miami needs to gain notice and success again. Maybe they kept him another season so he could coach them to a high draft pick before bringing in the new regime, a kind of throwing to the lions, but no matter how you hash it, Sparano's done in Miami.
1. Norv Turner (San Diego, 5th season, 46-30) - Enough already, your time in San Diego is over. Whether or not you're the best buddy of Chargers' GM A.J. Smith or not, there is no excuse for what you've allowed this team to become since getting the job in 2007. After replacing Marty Shottenheimer, who had just wrapped a 14-2 season, Turner took that same team and promptly lost three of four to start his career. Needing to win six straight to make the playoffs (which came after a LaDanian Tomlinson-organized players meeting changed things), he found a way and took the Chargers all the way to the AFC Championship before losing to New England. That season may have been Norv's most successful, but each subsequent debacle looked the same, starting horribly, coming back by season's end, then losing in the playoffs. In 2008, Norv went home a round earlier against the Steelers, losing Tomlinson in the process. In 2009, San Diego's first-round bye was wasted when they lost to the Jets in their second-round game, though Norv did earn himself an extension for consistently failing a little more each year. 2010 saw no playoffs.
This season, the former Dallas QB coach can't seem to get Philip Rivers back on track, has wasted talents like Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson, and doesn't really seem to look like he cares. Currently 4th in the AFC West at 5-7, there's no doubt the shake up in San Diego is readying and the epicenter is squarely on Norv (though Rivers may catch some of the aftershocks). A head scratcher when he came in to replace Marty (why did he again?), he has taken a superstar team and slowly let if degrade into a rusty joke. Blame Rivers if you want, who seems just as lackluster, but watching San Diego games this season, you've got to believe the team isn't feeling it anymore. The players aren't playing for Coach Turner, don't have their hearts or heads in the game, and the winds of change are blowing into San Diego, looking to carry Norv away.
Who really knows what a GM wants out of their coaches these days. Too often, it seems that teams bring in name coaches rather than the best options, hoping the genie can be called out of the bottle at will rather than seeing what made those coaches so good to begin with. While some, like Reid and Coughlin, have been doing it so long teams are starting to look for a new direction, other coaches, like Turner and Shanahan, just don't look like what was advertised. Meanwhile, Sparano should have left last year when Miami interviewed Harbaugh. Though most of these coaches will find new positions before 2012 begins (forget the Redskins, how about Reid to San Diego?), their performances this season definitely warrant walking papers.
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